The Crossing

Warning bells chimed nearby. The crossing gates lowered and red lights flashed beside them.

The sun was setting on the prairie fields. Fluorescent lines of gold slashed at the sky like claw marks. The smell of cut grass swirled in the wind and the side of Luna’s face glowed a dim orange. We sat on the humming rail and said nothing.

My left hand fell to Luna’s. She pulled away.

“Train’s coming,” I said.

“Yeah.”

Her voice sounded like an empty room, bags packed and drapes removed.

A loud and sustained train horn blasted. I stood and pulled her from the rail by her arm.

I walked a few feet and turned to face the tracks. Luna didn’t. The freight train hurtled past, whipping my hair and loose garments in its direction. I squinted through the turbulence beating at my face. The horn continued to sound, falling in pitch as it passed. The quake of the engine moved with it.

We once sat in the car at this crossing for over 15 minutes. As if by some cosmic will, the Northern Lights materialised overhead. They danced for us whilst we held hands across the gearstick. The windows were down and the air smelt of asphalt – just as it does now.

I realised Luna wasn’t beside me. She was walking back to the car, dragging her feet like a movie zombie. I jogged after her.

“You wanna go back?”

“Sure.”

She hadn’t looked me in the eye since we left the house.

The train’s caboose rattled into the distance, leaving only the sound of hovering air above the tracks. The gates lifted and cars started moving again. I saw a couple of curious faces looking our way.

Luna stopped next to the passenger side of our car and tried to open the locked door. With an exasperated huff she leant her back against the side and hugged herself for warmth. The nights were getting bitter as winter approached. Strange I wouldn’t be here for the worst of it this time.

I unlocked the car and Luna entered in one swift motion. Climbing into the driver’s seat, I sat down on an envelope from the Canadian government. I quickly stuffed it into the door slot, away from Luna’s eyes, and flipped the heaters to full. A roar of hot air beat against our shins.

I turned the key.

“Can we go to Times?” Luna asked, suddenly facing me. Her eyes glowed with a flicker of spent energy, like a dying candle.

“Erm,” I said, off-guard. “Yeah, ‘course we can.”

She nodded her head and snuggled back into the seat, rolling her sleeves over her hands.

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